Monday, April 22, 2024

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City Hotels Grow Veggies

Suman Prasad

Competition brings the best out of an individual. How true is that when you think about Bengaluru’s food scene? Everyday a new restaurant, café or a food joint is taking birth with innovative concepts, quirky themes and of course value for money food. To keep the competition at bay, the existing restaurants and hotels are making way for exciting trends which not only attracts the diners but also instills a trust factor. Gone are the days when the only objective of diners was to eat food and for restaurants to serve. Today, it is all about creating experiences.

One such trend which is extremely popular in west is slowly gaining its foothold in the Indian food industry and city restaurants are leaving no stone unturned to ride on the wave of ‘In-house Culinary Gardens’.

The in-house produce by the restaurants is a great way to give the dishes fresher flavors and engage the diners. With different varieties of herbs like thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil, etc.; fruits like muskmelon and watermelon; vegetables like aubergine, spinach, spring onion, celery, etc. and edible flowers like lavender, chives, nasturtiums growing only few feet away from the dining space, the customers will not only taste stronger flavors on their plates, but they will also experience the contentment of seeing the exact source where their food came from.

Expressing his view on the sudden rise of this trend, Julius Jack – Corporate Chef at The Biere Club & 153 Biere Street says “With our guests getting more and more health conscious, there is an increased focus on serving fresh and organic vegetable and herbs. Over the last few years restaurateurs are making sincere efforts to cultivate necessary ingredients on-premise. We strongly believe in serving the best and fresh food to our guest, hence we maintain an in-house garden”.

“It is a stand against agriculture globalization where season of the nature of life is not followed any more”, believes Antonio Tardi, Executive Chef at Shangri-La hotel, Bengaluru.

Mӧvenpick Hotel and Spa Bangalore currently doesn’t have a garden ready at their property but understanding the importance of cultivating herbs, vegetables, etc. in-house, they have started working on it and will be functional in two months.

Commenting on this important move, Rayomund Pardiwalla, Executive Chef at Mӧvenpick Hotel and Spa Bangalore says “Off late the consumer has become more inclined towards organic vegetables and procures. Everyone wants to have vegetables that are free from all kind of pesticides and other chemicals. Hence we have taken the initiative to grow some basic herbs and veggies in our own campus. It helps us to use high quality ingredients in our dishes, which in turn shows in the flavor of our food and also helps us in building the trust of our guests”.

A trend which has picked up so much of attention and importance from culinary industry across nations has several benefits to offer.

Talking about the benefits, Marty Kindleysides, Executive Chef at Sheraton Bangalore says “It gives us the opportunity to grow things that are not really available in the market, like zucchini flowers and other micro greens”.

Chef Julius feels that the benefit of in-house garden is manifold. He says “Firstly, you have ready access to herbs or veggies that accentuates the flavor of the food we serve due to its freshness. Secondly, it reinforces our commitment to serve good food to our guests. Thirdly, it is a treat to your eyes as you have a beautiful green patch within the compound adding on to the overall beauty of the restaurant. Lastly, it is an experience for the guests as well; as they too get a glance of beautiful herbs and veggies being grown which otherwise they get to see only on the shelves of a supermarkets. It is like a brief date with the nature”

He further adds “At our property, most of the guests explore the garden while the food gets prepared. It builds a trust among the guests as they feel reassured that the food that is being served is fresh”.

Good things doesn’t come easy, hence growing and sustaining an in-house garden by restaurants needs investment of time, constant effort and care, money being least of the important factors.

Chef Tardi with lots of excitement says “I believe we have green fingers and the passion to have the in-house culinary garden in bloom with a large variety. I am glad to have a team which is equally passionate about the same and we ensure they (garden) get an ample part of our day”.

Chef Julius agrees to the fact that it requires a lot of time and attention. He says “To ensure that the garden is maintained well, we have an expert who takes care of the overall garden. While we do make recommendations to grow certain herbs and vegetables, the gardener takes the ultimate decision”.

But certainly there are few limitations as well.

Talking about the hindrances, Chef Marty says “The limitation is the size of the garden which restricts us from growing anything in abundance. If the availability of space was never an issue the chefs would have grown cucumbers and squash hanging from the hotel façade”.

“There are few things which needs to be taken into account, like – you might need to buy soil, roots dry out quicker in a hot climate, lack of mineral content in bagged soils and use of peat moss in bagged products”, feels Chef Rayomund.

Chef Tardi has a complete different view. He says “If there is a will there is a way, and we believe there can be no roadblocks if you have a goal in mind which we believe in”.

But the million dollar questions is – is this new trend of ‘in-house culinary garden’ killing the business of small farms/vendors?

Growing Greens, a city based farm located near Hebbal who delivers fruits, vegetables, herbs, etc. to many hotels and restaurants like Fava, Caperberry, Olive beach, Taj Group of Hotels, Ritz Carlton, Hyatt, JW Marriott, Shangri-La to name a few, does not see this trend as a threat to their business.

Hamsa V, Co-Founder, Growing Greens says “This will not affect the business as there is enough business for each of us across country depending on the product category”.

He further adds “It is a good practice to grow certain stuff in house, especially herbs as it’s easy to grow. However, considering larger requirements in the hotels and restaurants this model might be difficult as it requires a dedicated person round the clock taking care of the garden”.

Chef Julius strikes a positive note. He says “It is not going to affect the small farms or vendors. For bulk orders we do buy vegetables and herbs from them. The greens that are grown in-house are sufficient for a small customer base. When we expect heavy footfalls, we get the vegetables from other vendors”.

Chef Tardi in an agreement to Julius’ statement says “No, we are passionate farmers in the sense that we do it for quality and for guest experience and cannot produce the volumes that we source for our hotel need.

He signs off saying “Local farmers will always be supported from our side”.

This article first appeared on The New Indian Express

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